So you’ve completed a sale—someone has won the auction listing that you posted (or ended your Buy It Now listing) and paid you via PayPal.
Is it okay to ship or not?
Your buyer wants their item, like, yesterday, but what if PayPal is telling you something different? What should you do?
It’s true that in general the best customer service practices demand that you ship as quickly as possible, it’s also true that you don’t want ship until you’re relatively certain to have avoided scams against sellers having to do with fraudulent payments.
It’s also nice to qualify for eBay’s seller protection program if your sale is eligible, since this will give you an advantage in winning dispute battles if they become an issue. To qualify, you should only ship when PayPal says it’s okay for you to ship your item, meaning that eBay and PayPal don’t foresee any trouble spots having to do with payment or the buyer’s purchase.
Knowing When It’s Okay to Ship
To know when it’s okay to ship your eBay item while avoiding payment hassles and remaining in eBay’s good Seller Protection graces, follow these steps:
Log into your PayPal account.
Find the incoming payment in question in your recent transactions list.
Click on the “Details” link for that transaction.
Scroll down to the “Transaction Details” area of the page.
In the “Transaction Details” area of the details page, you may see one of several phrases prominently highlighted. Here’s what they mean:
OK to ship means that the buyer’s payment has cleared, the funds have been transferred to your PayPal account, and seller protection—if the item in question is eligible for it—is active for the sale. You should ideally ship the moment you see this status.
Don’t ship yet means that eBay and/or PayPal have either seen something that they don’t like about the buyer or the transaction, or that the payment has not yet cleared. Since some forms of electronic payment can take several days to clear, this isn’t necessarily cause for alarm (though it can be cause for frustration for sellers hoping for quick access to funds). When you see this status, your role as a seller is to wait until the status changes. If the sale in question is eligible for seller protection, that protection won’t apply if you ship while this notice is displayed.
Stop - Don’t Ship tells you that eBay or PayPal want this sale undone. Either the payment didn’t clear (in which case you won’t receive funds in your account) or the buyer has been determined to be ineligible to make this purchase on eBay, often due to a suspension of some kind that took effect during your transaction.
Having the Patience to Wait and What to Tell Antsy Buyers
Even though in some cases it can be frustrating to be told to wait before shipment—particularly in cases in which a buyer is actively pressing you to provide a tracking number—it is generally bad practice to ship before PayPal gives you the all-clear as a seller.
If buyers are demanding immediate shipment or an explanation for why it hasn’t occurred, the best policy is to simply tell them the truth:
“I haven’t shipped your item yet because PayPal has instructed me not to do so until the transaction has cleared. I’ll let you know when that happens.”
Keep in mind, too, that low detailed seller ratings in transactions that are eligible for seller protection won’t count against you if they are isolated cases—which is almost always true for PayPal-delayed shipments.
Given the advantages to following PayPal’s advice and timing regarding shipping, the smart money is on sellers that ship when wait when PayPal says to wait and that ship when PayPal says to ship.
After all, do you really want to ship an item only to find out that PayPal was unable to clear the transaction and no funds ended up coming your way?
For most sellers, the answer is a clear “No.”